I have bought some of Ratcliff’s tutorials, and I own Macphun’s Intensify as it came with a bundle I bought some years ago, so I’ve been bombarded with news and requests to pre-order. There is a trial version so I gave this a go.
Aurora HDR will do nothing good for me personally, I find it rather pointless. Someone mentioned how Macphun is good at marketing, this is exactly why they went to Mr. Ratcliff who is also extremely good at marketing and hype. If you’re like me it’ll tickle your curiosity enough to test it, for others they might think they’re buying the holy grail of HDR, but really I am doubtful.
The experience of using this is very similar to Photomatix: you have a bunch of sliders but no idea what they are actually doing, so you click around brainlessly having no clue which does what, until you get to a point where you’re so confused about what you’ve done that you think it’s time to stop. You tweak it a little bit more until you think it doesn’t look too horrible and you’re done.
One of the big selling points is how fast that application is. For me it isn’t. I have a top of the line brand new 5K 27inch iMac with almost all options maxed out: fastest CPU, fastest GPU with 4GB of RAM, SSD, etc. I loaded 3 bracketed exposures, ticked alignment and reduce chromatic aberration and clicked okay. It took a long time, seemed stuck at 75% of the chromatic aberration process though no sign of the app crashing, it was just chugging at 300% CPU. After 15 minutes I had to leave for a game of tennis. When I came back after 1h+ it was finally done, yay! (PS: I didn’t have that problem with other sets of images that I’ve tried, but if it did it once it will do it again). I reset the settings, it looked bad but less horrible than my first try with a first set of images. I zoomed in 100% and there I noticed also that Aurora isn’t that fast then: span around a big file at 100% and it’ll be no faster than Photomatix or other plugins. It’s certainly much slower than the HDR function of Lightroom on the same set of images.
It leaves me scratching my head somehow. Yes, there’s layers and masking, but I have no incentive to go that far because I find the first part of the workflow vastly random. Seeing the results, I also cannot justify spending the money on this (I’ve funded Trey Ratcliff’s luxurious lifestyle enough already ;))
Does one really need a dedicated HDR software these days anyway?